Matt Harvey overwhelms Padres in season debut

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The Mets didn’t want to put extra pressure on Matt Harvey by making him their Opening Day starter this year, but let’s face facts: he’s the club’s best hope for having an ace this year. He showed why on Wednesday night when he limited the Padres to one hit and struck out 10 over seven scoreless innings.

Harvey cruised tonight, throwing 94 pitches in his seven innings. He ended up picking off Everth Cabrera, the only Padre to single off him. He did walk a pair, but thanks to a double play ball, he faced just one batter over the minimum.

The 10-strikeout game was Harvey’s third in 11 major league starts. The only other Mets to have that many so soon were Nolan Ryan (four) and Dwight Gooden (three). Which makes for pretty good company.

Having turned 24 last month, Harvey is older than the typical pitching phenom. Still, that might work in his favor this year, since he shouldn’t have to deal with the typical 160- or 180-innings limit. The Mets won’t want to extend him too far unless they somehow find themselves in contention in September, but he should pitch enough innings to finish in the top 10 in the NL in strikeouts.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉